Learning curve

Can the bishops get anything right? If events surrounding last month’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting were any indication, the answer is no. The bishops’ first mistake was mind-boggling: not to include a public discussion of the sexual-abuse crisis on the agenda of their Saint Louis meeting. Having adopted a charter to deal with the crisis the year before in Dallas, and having established the thirteen-member lay National Review Board to investigate sexual abuse within the church and to monitor the bishops’ compliance with their own rules, the bishops apparently felt it was time to “move on.” At best, that was wishful thinking; at worst, it was further evidence of the mindset that got them into the crisis in the first place. Why wasn’t it obvious that ignoring the crisis wasn’t an option? With the Review Board’s reports not expected until next year, many questions linger. Yes, the bishops have made giant strides, but they had an obligation to continue to publicly address the crisis.

Things went from merely a bad agenda to worse when shortly before the meeting, Frank Keating, former Oklahoma governor and National Review Board chairman, gave an interview in which he complained that bishops were not cooperating with the board’s investigations. Keating described some bishops as acting “like La Cosa Nostra” in their refusal to reveal the names of accused priests. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony...

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